by Countable | 3.20.17
On the campaign trail, President Elect Donald Trump promised to undo what he called President Obama’s "unconstitutional executive actions. After he takes the oath of office on January 20, 2017, he’ll have an opportunity to do just that.
Last week, we broke down some of Obama’s major executive orders that will be in jeopardy under the Trump administration, but presidents can also take other steps to implement their agenda that could be easily undone by the next POTUS. The president can issue presidential memoranda, which are a lot like executive orders in that they’re binding, but they aren’t numbered (a distinction that confuses even the White House Press Secretary). They can also have federal agencies advance regulatory changes they prefer.
Now, we’ll take a look at two central pillars of Obama’s agenda that came into being through these other forms of executive action — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy and the Clean Power Plan which looks to cut greenhouse gas emissions — and what their fate may be after Trump is sworn in.
In June 2012, Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allowed the U.S. government to defer deportations for people who came to the U.S. illegally before they turned 16 for a two-year, renewable period without providing them with legal status. It’s a use of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s "prosecutorial discretion," which is just a fancy term saying the agency can choose how they deal with each case.
Since the program’s creation in 2012, and its subsequent 2014 expansion to include people who were in the U.S. prior to 2010, more than 728,000 people have been approved for deferred action and allowed to remain in the U.S. Participants are able to apply for driver’s licenses, get in-state tuition at public universities, get a social security card and work legally. But DACA has been controversial since it began. Congress has tried on multiple occasions to halt the program and its offshoot, the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability or DAPA program, which was ultimately blocked by a ruling of the Supreme Court.
Should Trump decide to eliminate DACA, despite appeals by Obama and others to keep it intact, it would revoke the ability of people who had been protected by the program to remain in the country. While it’s not clear whether they would face immediate deportation in the event of a repeal — Trump has said he would deport the estimated 3 million unauthorized immigrants with criminal records first — they would likely lose the privileges that had been extended through program while the administration decides how to handle deportation.
First proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2014, the Clean Power Plan became Obama’s signature policy in his administration’s fight against climate change by requiring the power sector to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent before 2030.
A final version of the plan completed the EPA’s rulemaking process in August 2015, and requires states to create plans for reducing carbon emissions from power plants to meet that goal. If a state chooses not to comply — and several have fought against it — the EPA would impose top-down standards on them that won’t be tailored to fit the state’s needs, which could prove more expensive for state-level power companies and consumers.
The Clean Power Plan has proven controversial, as it punishes energy production from coal power plants in favor of energy from renewables and cleaner sources like natural gas. Detractors say that this will ultimately raise the cost of electricity, especially for consumers in states that currently rely on coal, which tied with natural gas as the leading source of electricity generation nationwide in 2015 at 33 percent each. As a result, Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation to give states more leeway in complying with the Clean Power Plan. The House passed that bill, but it hasn’t been considered by the Senate.
The legal basis for the Clean Power Plan has also been called into question, with the U.S. Supreme Court putting its implementation on hold while a case challenging the EPA’s authority winds its way through the courts. The central debate in the case is whether the EPA properly used the Clean Air Act as justification for advancing the Clean Power Plan without legislative action by Congress or states.
While that case is likely destined for a hearing before the Supreme Court after the D.C. appeals court issues its ruling, the incoming Trump administration could unravel the Clean Power Plan before SCOTUS has a chance to weigh in. All that President Trump would have to do to change course is to take an executive action that calls for the adoption a new energy policy and order the EPA to stop all enforcement or implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
Given the degree of opposition to these policies Trump voiced on the campaign trail, it’s highly unlikely that either DACA or the Clean Power Plan will be allowed to proceed unchanged once he becomes president. But it’s possible that members of Congress who want to preserve these elements of Obama’s legacy could advance legislation to keep parts of these policies in effect.
Regardless of where you stand on these policies, you can use the take action button to let your reps know how you think the Trump administration and the new Congress should approach dealing with DACA and the Clean Power Plan.
— Eric Revell
Photo by Edbrown05 / Creative Commons)
Written by Countable